Every year millions of Americans postpone dental visits out of anxiety and fear. Traumatic incidents from childhood and a fear of needles and grinding drills are just some of the reasons given by patients. This so called “dental phobia” prevents many from getting routine preventative care, which can lead to much bigger problems – and costly treatments– later on.
Sedation dentistry, sometimes called sleep dentistry, is now widely used to help quell patient fears when having routine procedures like teeth cleanings, fillings (whether new or replacing amalgam) and crowns. Sedation dentistry is gaining popularity across a number of fronts, not only because of its safety, but for its practicality when used in more invasive, multi-step procedures like dental implants.
Conscious oral sedation, nitrous oxide ( a.k.a. laughing gas) and IV sedation are the three methods used today. Unlike general anesthesia which completely puts you out, nitrous and oral sedation keep you awake but in an extremely relaxed, almost dream-like state. Passing minutes feel more like seconds and patients float through the entire visit without any pain or sensation. A deeper sedation through IV medication puts patients into a twilight sleep, erasing all memories of the procedure.
Dr. Bob Lalor, a certified NY State dentist in Parenteral Conscious Sedation, has been helping conquer dental fears in his practice for over a decade. “Patients who benefit from sedation dentistry may have but are certainly not limited to: an extreme fear or anxiety of visiting the dentist, problems with a gag reflex, overly sensitive teeth, and or a need for complex dental treatment.” He says that sedation is “a simple, relaxing way to experience dentistry” for many of his patients, whether they’re getting a deep cavity filled, or need other restorative dental work.
A highly respected dental blog launched in 2009, Dental Geek has been covering all of the hottest topics in the industry including why patients are so afraid of their dentist. “Memories of childhood visits, or painful treatment bring on the nerves and cause many to either avoid seeing a dentist altogether until an emergency crops up, or to dread the visit so much that they arrive at the surgery in a state of panic,” says contributing author Emma Ward. “There are relaxation exercises that people can learn and practice before coming to their appointment. Chemical intervention, such as nitrous oxide, sedation or anti-anxiety medication can be discussed.”
Beyond routine cleanings, fillings, and the occasional tooth extraction, sedation dentistry is immensely useful for complex procedures that would normally take several visits. For instance, patients getting periodontal surgery along with a complete “smile makeover” with implants can typically get the work done in fewer appointments.
But does nitrous oxide or oral sedation pose serious health risks? When administered by a trained dentist, “sedation carries very little risk and is suitable for a large number of patients who have been carefully pre-screened,” says Long Island cosmetic dentist, Dr. Elliott.
“Nevertheless,” he continues, we still obtain medical clearance from the patient’s physician prior to that visit. We have an in depth consultation for each patient as to why they feel the need to be under any type of sedation. For example, a candidate needing dental implants or a root canal would be recommended IV sedation. It is the most intense level of sedation dentistry performed in our practice.”
Whether you just want an anxiety-free dental cleaning or desire the amnesia effect of IV sedation for a more intricate procedure, a dentist certified in IV and PO Sedation can discuss the benefits and types of sedation dentistry for suitable your needs.
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